Though Christmas on New Zealand’s South Island is celebrated in the same form as many other places in the world, two notable exceptions make Christmas in New Zealand a special and unique affair. For one, as one of the first places in the world to greet the rising sun, those celebrating Christmas in New Zealand are among the first on the planet to do so with many Kiwis already testing out their new gifts while children in North America still anxiously fend off sleep in anticipation.
Secondly, much like Christmas in Hawaii, Christmas in New Zealand occurs during a season when there isn’t a snowflake to be found and celebrations usually involve a day with family at the beach. On the South Island, where the beaches are also backed by towering mountains, the warm weather could also make for a Christmas day spent hitting the trails, fishing the rivers, lounging in hot springs, cycling back country roads, or any other outdoor pursuit which is conducive to warm weather and time off from work.
Though traveling during Christmas on New Zealand’s South Island is one of the best ways to spend the end of the year, it’s important to remember this is also a time when many local Kiwis also take time off for vacations which means campgrounds, DOC campsites, back country cabins, and scenic B&B’s will all be booked well ahead of time and require some well advance planning. Many families during this time opt to head to their “bach,” or vacation home, with popular areas being Lake Wanaka, Golden Bay, Kaikoura, the Catlins, Queenstown, or the wild and wooly west coast.
With classic Kiwi quirk of course, Christmas on the South Island is also celebrated with such rituals as leaving a mince pie and a beer out for Santa who often times is portrayed as cruising around the island in a jet boat. In a fashion similar to that of North America, presents are wrapped and set beneath trees, houses are adorned with a sea of festive lights, and carols are sung by merry individuals all happy to be celebrating the overall mirth of the holiday. On a religious note, all of the churches across the island are open for services, and streetside festivities can be found in whichever town you may find yourself passing through.
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